Go Big Or Go Home.

 

26733587_10155142261446905_7471090933571870444_nNot yet Emptynesters, Craig & Maria Bromley decide not to wait to take their adventure of a lifetime, and instead bring their teenage boys (and tutor) around the world for seven months, hitting five continents and twenty-four countries. 

When I first heard Maria’s plans for this trip we were sitting outside in Bryant Park drinking rose at the end of last summer. I thought she was joking. Or, if not joking, then it was something she was thinking of doing when the kids went off to college. I didn’t think about it again until I saw her Facebook picture below saying they were off for seven months. I should know better when it comes to Maria. She embodies Go Big or Go Home. 26168545_10155099346336905_21023201604634721_n

Maria was good about posting from time to time on Facebook, and she also wrote a few very interesting blog posts. But when she returned home this summer, I needed more info so I went to see her in Hingham, Ma. where she lives when not globetrotting. We sat down over several cocktails and I asked her all my questions. I thought my readers might find this story interesting. I know I did.

Me:

Ok, give me the details.

Maria:

We started our journey in South America.  I wanted to see the “Seven Wonders of the World,” so we started in Peru at Machu Picchu. We spent a month in Peru, then traveled to Argentina and Brazil.  We tried to time our travels based on things like the weather and the special events that were happening.  We planned Carnival in Rio, and Cherry Blossom season in Japan, but other events like Holi festival in India and the World Cup in Croatia were fortuitous. We had planned to go to Africa after South America because Craig wanted to see the “great migration” of wildebeests which was not happening until early June, so we changed our route and went to Dubai after Brazil.  After Dubai, we visited Jordan, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. From there it was straight to Tokyo for Sakura and visits with old friends.  From Tokyo, we stopped in Korea and China.  By that time, it was early May, so we headed to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania. We managed to time the great migration so well that the wildebeests trampled past our tent in the Serengeti the last night we were there…literally thousands of them! From there we went to Zanzibar, which always sounded so exotic to me and appropriately, is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury. We left Africa, with African dust on our feet and in our hearts and headed to Europe.  From there we went to Germany and then headed east. We road-tripped through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia.  By this time it was mid-July, and we had enjoyed plenty of “together time” so, we all chose different ways to spend the last two weeks of our adventure, one son went home, Craig and my other son went to Greece, and I went to have some alone time in Slovakia!  We met up in London to celebrate our last night, and all arrived safely home on July 28!

Me: 

My head is spinning from that itinerary. Did you stay in hotels?

Maria:

We stayed in every kind of accommodation you can imagine!  From a treehouse in the Amazon to AirBnB’s, which were already occupied (that’s another story)…to villas on stilts over the ocean, to hotels, to safari tents and friends’ home….you name it we stayed there.

Me: 

What was your motivation to do this? Most people wouldn’t consider doing something like this with their spouse, let alone two teenage boys.

Maria:

The impetus was my husband’s retirement.  He wanted to do something big –  like move the family to Europe – but our teenage sons were less than thrilled with that. I pitched the idea of an “adventure.” We would travel around the world to places we had never been, and when it was over, we could come back to the same home and school that the boys loved. We also felt the timing was good (not that there is ever a perfect time to pull your kids out of school…) but they were in grade 8 & 9, and we knew it wasn’t going to get easier. We wanted to reconnect with them as teenagers and as a family.  We value experiences and felt travel, adventure and family time were the best things that we could offer them.

Me: 

Where did you go that far exceeded your expectations?

Maria:

The world is a beautiful place! It’s hard to narrow it down as each place was unique and different. We loved Peru.  It felt very spiritual and magical to visit Machu Picchu. We loved Africa.

We had to be up and out of our tent by 6:30am each morning to track the wildlife.  It was the one place no one complained about having to get up early. Seeing the behavior of the animals in the wild was so special. The alpha male is alive and well in the Serengeti. Finally, Croatia was amazing.  It’s like the “new” Greece…unspoiled and not yet developed. It was the World Cup which brought incredible energy to every place we visited, and my daughter got engaged on this portion of the trip…so it was probably the highlight!

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Me: 

Was there a scary moment on the trip where you questioned your decision to go?

Maria:

I never questioned our decision to go.  It was the best decision we ever made.  But yes, there were scary moments for sure.  When we were several miles up the Amazon river in a little boat, at dusk and the engine cut out…or when we visited a little village and my boys went to see a snake in one of the local’s backyards…and when I went back to check on them they were hanging onto a massive anaconda…or in South Africa when there was a great deal of social unrest and violence very close to us…or when my son was flying home unaccompanied, and his connecting flight was cancelled and he was stranded in Heathrow by himself for over 24 hours…lots of adventure and potential danger but thankfully, nothing too serious.

Me: 

What was the biggest challenge being away for so long?

Maria:

I guess it was ensuring the boys kept up with their schoolwork so they could fit back into their classes when we got home. We left in January, so they completed the first half of the year at their school. For the second half of the year, the school recommended BYU online courses.  We hired a tutor who traveled with us and went through the curriculum with them.

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Me: 

Were there any rituals or protocols you followed on the trip?

Maria: 

Sometimes we had routines, but other times we were very spontaneous.  Most of the trip was planned ahead of time, but we left room for changes.  We tried to have several hours of schoolwork a day, but if for example, we were visiting the Taj Mahal, we would make that part of the schoolwork.

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We tried to balance schoolwork, travel, and fun.  After visiting lots of forts and temples in India, we found a fort that had a zipline running over it which the boys loved. In Dubai, we went indoor skiing at a massive entertainment complex.

Me: What did you learn about yourself? Your marriage? Being a mom?

Maria:

Craig & I learned that we have very complementary skills.  I organized our visas and vaccinations.  He is a big picture guy.  He researched things like the great wildebeest migration and realized we needed to change our itinerary.  I researched Brazil Carnival and knew I wanted to dance in it! I am good at organizational details.  I had to ensure that we had all the paperwork necessary, readily accessible.  When we landed in South Africa, we had to have the original birth certificates for the boys to prove we were their parents, in case of child trafficking.  I was able to pull it out of my file.  I think Craig & I should be contestants on the Amazing Race!

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Me: 

What advice would you give to people considering something like this?

Maria: 

Just Do It!  It may seem overwhelming, but there are ways to surmount any obstacles. For example, we needed dog care during the trip for our two golden retrievers.  My son told me his friend’s parents were renovating their home and needed a place to stay during the exact time we were planning to be away. The universe will provide. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today.  Travel is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your children.  EXPERIENCES OVER THINGS.

Me:

In what way do you think the boys are different from this experience and do you think it will be challenging to re-enter life in a small town in America?

Maria:

They’ve already re-entered life here and are VERY happy to be back with their friends.  But I think they were exposed to things outside of their bubble of small town America.  When we lived in Japan, we traveled quite a bit, but they were much younger.  They seem much more aware of things like social inequality after this trip.  We visited favelas in Brazil, slums in Delhi and townships in Africa.  We met people from all walks of life.  We helped out with a video project in which we asked people we met, “what do you need for a happy life?”  “What do you feel is a life with dignity?” We learned that most people really want a good education for their children, a place to call home, and personal safety….things we take for granted here. If we opened the boys’ eyes to the different lifestyles of people around the world, from the Maasai warriors to the children singing in Soweto, and taught them empathy, it will have all been worth it.

Oh, and one more thing. They each only took one bag. That might be the most astonishing part of the entire trip.

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Have fun. Be bold. Like Maria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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